A Brutalist Brewery: Arup and Carlsberg in Northampton, 1974

The March 1974 edition of the Arup Journal is an amazing artefact, offering a blow-by-blow breakdown of the design and construction of Carlsberg’s state of the art Danish brewery in Northampton.

You can read the full mag­a­zine here in PDF form, and it’s a love­ly thing in its own right – all white space and sans serif, as styl­ish as the build­ings it depicts.

Arup Journal, March 1974, cover.

Arup is an archi­tec­ture firm found­ed in 1946 by Ove Arup, born in New­cas­tle  upon Tyne in the UK to Dan­ish par­ents in 1895, and edu­cat­ed in Den­mark. Though he died in 1988 the com­pa­ny lives on, its name a byword for mod­ernism.

In 1970, Arup was com­mis­sioned by Carls­berg Brew­ery Ltd to design a new plant in Northamp­ton in the Eng­lish Mid­lands, just as the lager boom was begin­ning to bite. The cost of the project was £15 mil­lion; Carls­berg sup­plied the brew­ery equip­ment and defined the neces­si­ties of the space accord­ing to pro­duc­tion need; and Arup com­mis­sioned Dan­ish archi­tect Knud Munk to pro­duce a design that would “express the best in mod­ern Dan­ish archi­tec­ture”.

As well as lots of detail in the text the mag­a­zine also includes process charts…

Process chart of lager brewing at Carlsberg.

…inte­ri­or shots…

A control panel at the brewery.

…and lots of dra­mat­ic black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy of the brew­ery build­ing at var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion, set in the flat land­scape against dra­mat­ic skies…

The exterior of the brewery.
CREDIT: Col­in West­wood.

…which are either awe-inspir­ing or grim depend­ing on your point of view.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to think of this hulk appear­ing, with atten­dant talk of effi­cien­cy and automa­tion, at just the exact moment the Cam­paign for Real Ale was tak­ing off. This is about as far from all that imagery of wood­en casks, old inns and pewter tankards as you can get.

And the empha­sis through­out on the Dan­ish­ness of the project – Dan­ish brew­ers, Dan­ish archi­tect, offi­cial­ly opened by the Queen of Den­mark – while can­ny in terms of under­lin­ing the authen­tic­i­ty of the prod­uct was also at odds with the grow­ing sense that Local was some­how a sacred virtue.

We’ve been research­ing this build­ing and Carlsberg’s arrival in the UK on and off for years and this showed up in one of our peri­od­ic check-ins. There are times we wor­ry about the state of cor­po­rate archives and oth­ers when we feel like we’re liv­ing in the best pos­si­ble age, with digi­tis­ing get­ting cheap­er and com­pa­nies real­is­ing the val­ue of their own his­to­ry.

Further Reading #2: RIBA Wonderland

Researching 20th Century Pub we spent time in some great libraries and archives with rich collections of pub- and beer-related material. This is the second in a series of blog posts intended to highlight great resources you can go and look up yourself.

We had assumed that the library of the Roy­al Insti­tute of British Archi­tects (RIBA) might be dif­fi­cult to get into but, no, it’s a dod­dle. You just turn up at the gor­geous build­ing on Port­land Place, Lon­don W1, and sign your­self in with the require­ment to show some sort of pho­to ID the only hur­dle to jump.

The library itself is small but tran­quil with plen­ty of qui­et bays, bal­conies and cor­ners to work in. There are lots of desks and plen­ty of pow­er points, and the library has a lib­er­al pol­i­cy with regard to the use of cam­eras and smart­phones, as long as you obey the usu­al rules of copy­right and redis­tri­b­u­tion. (Which, of course, we have slight­ly bent by using some of the images below, but only at low-res, most­ly grainy and out of focus at that, and pure­ly by way of com­men­tary on the library itself.)

Open Access

There’s a huge amount of stuff rel­e­vant to the inter­ests of pub geeks avail­able on open access before you even start both­er­ing the stacks. There’s a com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion of books on pub archi­tec­ture, for exam­ple, includ­ing stan­dard works by peo­ple such as Ben Davis and Mark Girouard as well as more niche pub­li­ca­tions. Lynn Pearson’s 1989 book The Northum­bri­an Pub: an archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ry was nice to stum­ble across, for exam­ple.

There are also bound vol­umes of var­i­ous archi­tec­ture and build­ing mag­a­zines dat­ing back to the Vic­to­ri­an peri­od that you are free to take from the shelf and browse. Some are indexed bet­ter than oth­ers and ref­er­ences to pubs in par­tic­u­lar can be hard to track down, list­ed as they might be under pub­lic hous­es, tav­erns, inns, pubs, drink­ing estab­lish­ments, hotels depend­ing on the cus­toms of each year and the prej­u­dices of the index­er.

We found lots to enjoy in par­tic­u­lar in The Archi­tect and Build­ing News, The Archi­tects’ Jour­nalThe Brick Builder and Build­ing. Pubs didn’t come up all that often beyond bouts of bick­er­ing on the let­ters pages but when they did it tend­ed to be in sub­stan­tial fea­tures with lots of pic­tures and plans. The issue of ABN for 23 Octo­ber 1936, for exam­ple, had a big, lav­ish­ly illus­trat­ed fea­ture on the Myl­let Arms at Perivale, with cred­its for every detail of the decor and build­ing: “Carv­ing to Sign: Gertrude Her­mes”. The AJ for 24 Novem­ber 1938 had an epic arti­cle by the archi­tect of the Myl­let Arms, E.B. Mus­man, called ‘Pub­lic Hous­es: Design and Con­struc­tion’, with descrip­tions, maps and pho­tographs of tons of pubs, and 1930s Art Deco exam­ples in par­tic­u­lar.

Hand-drawn plan.
A dia­gram from Musman’s 1938 arti­cle.

Anoth­er arti­cle of par­tic­u­lar note – do go and look it up if you get chance – is ‘The Post-War Pub’ from the Archi­tects’ Jour­nal Infor­ma­tion Library for 20 May 1964. It is based on a sur­vey of post-war pubs com­mis­sioned by the Brew­ers’ Soci­ety and led by archi­tect Geof­frey Salmon who we assume also wrote the arti­cle. If you’re inter­est­ed, as we are, in estate pubs, flat-roofed pubs, booze bunkers, or what­ev­er else you want to call them, this is the moth­er­lode, crammed with acute obser­va­tions, pho­tographs and sta­tis­tics – this is where we found the esti­mate of the num­ber of pubs built in the post-war peri­od cit­ed in 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub.

Title page: The Post-War Pub.

At this point we should men­tion the staff who could not have been more help­ful on our mul­ti­ple vis­its. At one point, hav­ing explained what we were research­ing, one of the librar­i­ans got a bit ani­mat­ed try­ing to recall some nugget of infor­ma­tion. He turned up at the desk where we were work­ing half an hour lat­er with an ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry arti­cle about pubs that was con­fus­ing­ly indexed any­where but that he remem­bered hav­ing come across years before. Now that’s above and beyond.

Title page: The Modern Public House.

Into the Stacks

There’s also a huge amount of mate­r­i­al kept under lock and key but no less acces­si­ble for that. As it’s a small, fair­ly qui­et library noth­ing takes long to emerge once a slip has been sub­mit­ted – ten min­utes, per­haps? It was through this route that we were final­ly able to get our hands on Basil Oliver’s 1934 book The Mod­ern Pub­lic House. As it hap­pened it con­tained most of the same mate­r­i­al as his lat­er must-read The Renais­sance of the Eng­lish Pub­lic House but it was good to ver­i­fy that with our own eyes, and also to read the short intro­duc­tion by the great Impe­r­i­al archi­tect and occa­sion­al pub design­er Edwin Lutyens:

The Pub­lic House rep­re­sents what should be the hub of our wheel of Life, essen­tial to our mate­r­i­al need and sec­ond only to the Church that stands and rep­re­sents our spir­i­tu­al neces­si­ty. The Church is to the spir­it as the Inn is to the flesh and, if good and well designed, they baulk the Dev­il him­self.

Of less inter­est, per­haps, are the var­i­ous gov­ern­ment pub­li­ca­tions on plan­ning, hous­ing and pub­lic health, most of which men­tion pubs only in pass­ing. Still, we found them use­ful, in lieu of easy to access online ver­sions. (Which, seri­ous­ly, there ought to be.) The same might be said for obscure archi­tec­tur­al guide­books such as Hugh Casson’s New Sights of Lon­don from 1938 which has notes on a few pubs and includes this par­tic­u­lar­ly love­ly illus­tra­tion:

The Comet, Hatfield, as illustrated in 1938.

So, there you have it: per­haps our favourite library of all of those we explored in the last year or two. You can search the cat­a­logue online – try ‘pubs’ for starters and if the mile-long list of results doesn’t give you the urge to vis­it then noth­ing will.

Truman’s Post-War Pubs, 1967

This set of pictures and accompanying notes come from editions of the Truman Hanbury & Buxton in-house magazine, the Black Eagle Journal, published in 1967.

As before, we’ve tried to include infor­ma­tion on when build­ings were actu­al­ly opened; cred­its for pho­tog­ra­phers and archi­tects where avail­able; and updates on how the build­ings look 50 years on.

1. The Elephant & Castle, London

Exterior of the Elephant & Castle, a brutalist block.

We’re start­ing with a bit of a super­star pub – one many of us will have heard of, if not vis­it­ed, and after which this whole area of Lon­don is named. We’ve got an ear­li­er arti­cle from the Licensed Vict­uallers’ Gazette boast­ing about the mod­erni­sa­tion of the pub in 1900. By the mid-1960s, when the area was being com­pre­hen­sive­ly rede­vel­oped, that Vic­to­ri­an pub was doomed.

The idea for this uncom­pris­ing­ly bru­tal new design seems to have come from the Greater Lon­don Council’s plan­ners and the developer’s archi­tect Ernő Goldfin­ger who sug­gest­ed that ‘the pub­lic house should appear to float on glass’. Truman’s in-house archi­tect, Fred­er­ick G. Hall, inter­pret­ed that instruc­tion as above, his design being imple­ment­ed by A.P. Cireg­na. It’s nice that in this case we not only have an architect’s cred­it but also a pho­to of Mr Hall drink­ing the first pint pulled at the new pub while being applaud­ed by brew­ery direc­tor Sir Thomas Bux­ton.

F.G. Hall drinks the first pint at the Elephant in 1967.

Foot­notes: pump­clips have def­i­nite­ly arrived by this point but that they are tiny; note also dim­ple mugs, which had over­tak­en ten-siders by this point.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Truman’s Post-War Pubs, 1967”

The Life of a Brewery Architect in the 1950s

The photo above is from 1957 and the young man at the drawing board is Reg Norkett, who we managed to track down.

We found the pho­to in the autumn 1957 edi­tion of the Hopleaf Gazette as shared by Ray­mond Simonds on his web­site – a won­der­ful trove of archive mate­r­i­al from his family’s brew­ery. It accom­pa­nies a brief pro­file of the Archi­tects’ Depart­ment which men­tions Reg Norkett’s name in pass­ing.

With­out any great expec­ta­tions we Googled him and found his address on the web­site of a pro­fes­sion­al organ­i­sa­tion for archi­tects; we wrote him a let­ter and have since exchanged a few emails. What fol­lows is a light­ly edit­ed ver­sion of his respons­es to our ques­tions with a lit­tle com­men­tary from us here and there.

First, we asked Mr Norkett for some general background – where was he from, and how did he end up at Simonds?

I was born in Read­ing in 1936, edu­cat­ed at Red­lands Pri­ma­ry School – then Junior school – which was the local school. I then went to Read­ing Blue Coat School at Son­ning near Read­ing as a board­er from 1948 to 1953.

Dur­ing my time at school I realised I was inter­est­ed in a career in the building/construction indus­try as, e.g. a sur­vey­or or archi­tect. I man­aged to obtain the required num­ber of O lev­els to com­mence pro­fes­sion­al train­ing and was ini­tial­ly employed in the Bor­ough Archi­tects Depar­ment at Read­ing Bor­ough Coun­cil, as Junior Assis­tant in the Clerk of Works Sec­tion. I com­menced train­ing in part-time study for a Nation­al Cer­tifi­cate in Build­ing at the local Tech­ni­cal Col­lege.

How­ev­er I was keen to be involved in the Design and prepa­ra­tion of draw­ings and so on, which I dis­cussed with the Bor­ough Archi­tect. He  approached the Chief Archi­tect at H&G Simonds, Mr Regi­nald Southall, who is shown in one of the pho­tographs in the Hop Leaf Gazette which you for­ward­ed.

I was offered a junior posi­tion in the Archi­tects Depart­ment, join­ing the com­pa­ny in 1954, and com­menc­ing study part-time at the Oxford School of Archi­tec­ture.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Life of a Brew­ery Archi­tect in the 1950s”

John Smith’s Modern Pubs in the North, 1967–69

This is another in our series of posts sharing photographs and details about post-war pubs from mouldering magazines. This time, it’s John Smith’s of Tadcaster and the magazine is The Magnet.

We’ve only got three edi­tions – we’d love more – but they’re packed with good stuff if, that is, your def­i­n­i­tion of good stuff is pro­files of plain-look­ing mod­ern pubs on hous­ing estates in places like Sheffield and Don­cast­er.

The Flarepath, Dunsville, South Yorkshire

Exterior of The Flarepath.

The head­line for this piece in The Mag­net is A ROYAL AIR FORCE PUB – The Flarepath, which opened in Novem­ber 1967, served RAF Lind­holme, near Don­cast­er.

The sign of The Flarepath.

The name refers to an illu­mi­nat­ed run­way used by bombers return­ing from night-raids over Ger­many dur­ing World War II. (Again, anoth­er won­der­ful name square­ly of its time.)

The Lindholme Lounge at The Flarepath.

The car­pet in the lounge was spe­cial­ly woven and fea­tured a Lan­cast­er bomber tak­ing off and the bars were dec­o­rat­ed with RAF squadron crests. There were pho­tographs of var­i­ous types of bomb, again from the Impe­r­i­al War Muse­um archive, on the walls.

Mr & Mrs Varley.

Its first man­agers were Joyce Var­ley and her hus­band Arthur, late of the Mag­net Hotel, Bent­ley.

Is it still there? Yes, with John Smith’s sig­nage out­side, too.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “John Smith’s Mod­ern Pubs in the North, 1967–69”